The Applied Ecology Research Group at Victoria University conducts extensive research in the field of ecology, including the management and conservation of plants and animals, ecosystem management/rehabilitation and plant and animal responses to a range of human and introduced species interactions.

Many species and ecosystems worldwide are threatened by various processes including habitat loss, over-exploitation, pest species invasions and pollution. In Australia, protection of endangered species and ecosystems is a priority that has been enshrined in legislative acts.

Our research has a practical focus, resulting in quantitative information provided to state, federal and international environmental agencies and is used to positively influence the protection and rehabilitation of endangered species and ecosystems.

Areas of research

Ecosystem management

We conduct critical research into the management of several key ecosystems, with primary focus on innovative methods for restoration and rehabilitation of damaged ecosystems. Part of our studies involve investigating ways of managing existing threats. Some of the main areas we work on are:

  • grassland and grassy ecosystems
  • inland and coastal wetland systems
  • pest plant and animals
  • use of fire as a management tool
  • interactions between management and plant/animal populations.

Flora research

Our plant research involves the aspects of plant physiology and their life cycles. The study is critical to the management of the plant species in the wild, understanding their limits, and population demographics. Additionally, we carry out work on horticulturally and agronomically important plant species that contribute directly to human wellbeing. Some specific studies involve:

  • orchid population ecology
  • plant genetics
  • weed Ecology
  • plant recruitment
  • morphological responses of plants to climate change
  • identifying molecular markers to assist accelerated crop breeding
  • determining candidate genes involved in quality traits in agronomically important plant species.

Fauna research

To achieve effective and sustainable management of wildlife populations it is of utmost importance to understand the population dynamics of the individual species, the ecosystems they occupy and their interactions with humans. Our studies focus directly on research that has a direct management outcome, including:

  • marine cetacean, megafauna, pinniped and penguin tourism impacts and management
  • shellfish fishery management
  • Striped Legless Lizard ecology and management
  • waterfowl population genetics
  • impacts of human disturbance on waterbirds
  • management, hybridisation and conservation of waterbirds
  • morphological impacts of captive breeding.

Research facilities

  • Wet and dry laboratories
  • Pre and post PCR Molecular Laboratories
  • Nursery and plant growing areas
  • Controlled temperature growth rooms and incubators
  • Cairnlea Wildlife Reserve
  • St. Albans Grassland Reserve
  • Victorian Marine Science Consortium – Partner
  • Access to a wide range of field research sites
  • A wide range of environmental monitoring and field data processing equipment


Capabilities statement

View the Applied ecology capabilities statement for a brief overview of our research focus, expertise, facilities and resources, track record, profile and contact information.

Our researchers

Name Phone and email Research interests
Dr Randall W. Robinson
Group Leader
+61 3 9919 2885
[email protected]
Grassland ecology and management, Orchid ecology, genetics and management
Dr Patrick Jean Guay
Deputy Leader
+61 3 9919 2993
[email protected]
Waterfowl ecology, genetics and management. Morphological impacts of captive breeding.
Dr Carol Scarpaci +61 3 9919 2571
[email protected]
Marine cetacean, megafauna, pinnaped and penguin tourism and management. Shellfish fishery management.
Dr Joshua Johnson +61 3 9919 8284
[email protected]
Molecular markers to assist accelerated crop breeding. determining candidate genes involved in quality traits in agronomically important plant species.
Dr Megan O'Shea +61 3 9919 2129
[email protected]
Grassland ecology and management. Striped legless lizard ecology and management.

Projects undertaken by our current research students.

Name Thesis title
Harun Abdullah (PhD) Population dynamics of the endangered Melaleuca wimmerensis.
Mary Cowling (MSc) Management of seal tourism in New Zealand - tourism and the New Zealand fur seal in the Bay of Plenty
Nicole Filby (PhD) Whistle production in free-ranging bottlenose dolphins in response to vessel traffic.
Annett Finger (PhD) Trace metals in Little Penguin populations along the Victorian coastline.
Rachael Keefe (PhD) The Brandy Creek early Eocene macroflora.
Chutima Kongjaroon (PhD) Investigations into the use of molecular methods to distinguish between species of Caladenia subgenus Calonema
Sylvia Osterreider (PhD) Conservation ecology and human disturbance of Australian sea lions (Neophoca cinerea) in Western Australia
Wendy Probert (PhD) An investigation of the population ecology of Pterostylis cucullata R. Brown: implications for management
Claire Rawlinson (PhD) The conservation of Victoria's only endemic butterfly, the golden-rayed blue.
Deborah Reynolds (PhD) Population biology and ecology of the endangered grassland species Pimelea spinescens (Spiny Rice-flower).
Marta Slawuta (PhD) Bird distribution and abundance in relation to climate change in coastal ecosystems.
Kirby Smith (PhD) Diving tourism and the behavioural ecology of the Australian east coast population of grey nurse sharks(Carcharias taurus).
Richard Stafford-Bell (PhD) Population ecology of seagrasses of South-eastern Australia
Alice Taysom (PhD) Hybridisation of Pacific Black Ducks (Anas superciliosa) and Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos).
Nazim Uddin (PhD) Ecological implication of allelopathic interferences with reference to Phragmites australis.


Research publications

Members of Applied Ecology Research Group continue to publish their work in a broad range of scholarly journals and in proceedings of international learned conferences. Our recent publications are available.

Contact us

Dr Randall W. Robinson
Group Leader, Applied Ecology Research Group
Phone: +61 3 9919 2885
Email: [email protected]